The 1950s must have been a heady time for musicians, especially those in what was then considered the cutting edge of country music. Performers like Bill Haley, the Maddox Brothers, and Carl Perkins were beginning to attract some attention with a sound that had its roots in a variety of styles. Those included Western Swing and Hillbilly Boogie, but the music the performers made came to be known as Rockabilly.
Perkins was one of those with connections to Sun studio in Memphis, which also helped Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis get their starts, but one of the studio’s lesser lights had to go elsewhere to get recognition. Charlie Feathers managed to do just that, and is now remembered as one of the pioneers of Rockabilly.
The Mississippi-born Feathers did spend a lot of time at Sun in those days, but mostly as a session musician and sporadic composer and arranger. And even though he was featured on a record or two, his inability to get star billing led him to eventually move to rival Meteor Records. It didn’t take long for the results he wanted — his first record, “Tongue-Tied Jill,” with “Get With It” as the B side, became a regional hit, and both songs became classics.
Feathers soon moved to King Records and began spinning out a series of hits, among them “Everybody’s Lovin’ My Baby,” “One Hand Loose,” “Bottle to the Baby,” and “I Can’t Hardly Stand It.” His unique style, which not only included shifting dynamics but also a sound that was almost a singing hiccup, became very popular with fans.
As the years passed, most of Feathers’ contemporaries moved on to other styles but he stubbornly stuck with what worked for him, even though he mostly faded from public view. However, when Rockabilly began to again come into style in the early 1970s, he felt vindicated — and he wasn’t bashful about claiming his place in music history.
The last couple of decades of his life he fought health problems, but continued to perform whenever and wherever he could. As late as the 1990s he was still recording, and his fan base — especially strong in Europe — continued to appreciate his music long after his death in 1998.
3 thoughts on “Charlie Feathers – Rockabilly’s Cranky Pioneer”
Your post about Charlie Feathers, whom I was completely unfamiliar with, got me to pondering the age old adage, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
His voice and vocal style, in my opinion, are eerily similar to Carl Perkins along with his guitar playing. I would be very interested to know which of these gentlemen influenced the other? Thanks for the post!
Good question, Alan. Both guys were a little prickly and probably wouldn’t have admitted to being influenced by anybody, but just from a timing thing it looks like Perkins was well-established while Feathers was still doing back-ups.
Charlie was from Hudsonville North Of Holly Springs in Marshall County. His Cousin Frank Feathers Says they played Cowboys and Indians near the Headwaters of The Coldwater River which ran south Out of a Spring near a Stump south of The Railroad at Hudsonville. Frank said He was an Indian while Charlie got to be the Lone Ranger. He said Charlie got saved in 1948 at New Harmony Baptist Church and was gonna get Baptized but got Hit By Scarlet Fever and nearly Died. Nobody from the Church Came to Check on Charlie and He didnt attend Church Again until Frank came to see Him in The Hospital in The 1990s. Charlie’s Pupil Raymond Maupin witnessed to Charlie in the late 1960s as Frank was in the Car with Charlie as Raymond Witnessed and Charlie looked at the Moon and said “Now Hoss-” Raymond wrote a song on His “Preacher Man” Album “He Heard The Word But He Wouldnt Listen” where Raymond Maupin and The Hudson Singers made a Southern Gospel Rockabilly recording so mournful as Raymond Sang about Charlie You could hear The Clods Hitting The Coffin Top.
In the 1990s Charlie’s legs were as small as sticks in the Hospital, But God Raised Him Up. He walked into Holly Hill Baptist Church In Holly Springs where Frank Feathers is still the pastor, Frank Baptized Charlie. Frank Preached Charlie’s Funeral taking text from Charlie’s Song “I’ve Been Decieved”. Frank said The Devil had decieved Charlie a long time, The Church Had Decieved Charlie, (Not watching out for Him). But He made it right with God at last.
Robin Clayton WLRC Gospel Radio Walnut Mississippi (Where Frank Feathers Preaches)